RT. HON. ROTIMI CHIBUIKE AMAECHI V. INDEPENDENT NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION & ORSCase Laws . Supreme Court
RT. HON. ROTIMI CHIBUIKE AMAECHI V. INDEPENDENT NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION & ORS
In the Supreme Court of Nigeria
Thursday, October 25, 2007
ALOYSIUS IYORGYER KATSINA-ALU
WALTER SAMUEL NKANU ONNOGHEN
IBRAHIM TANKO MUHAMMAD
PIUS OLAYIWOLA ADEREMI
GEORGE ADESOLA OGUNTADE
RT. HON. ROTIMI CHIBUIKE AMAECHI
INDEPENDENT NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION & ORS
PAGE| 2 A. I. KATSINA-ALU, J.S.C (Delivering the Leading Judgment): Let me start by thanking all the senior counsel for the parties for the adroit and impressive manner in which they have put across their arguments both in their different briefs and the oral arguments canvassed in support. The issues in this appeal fall within a narrow compass. The starting point is the decision made by this court in Ugwu v.Ararume (2007) 12 NWLR (Pt. 1048) 367. The simple issue decided in that case is that a political party wishing to substitute a candidate for another within 60 days to the election must give cogent and verifiable reasons to INEC for the substitution sought. In the said ARARUME case, this court decided that to offer the reason framed as ‘error’ for a change of candidate is not in compliance with s.34(2) of the Electoral Act. 2006. In this case. the same reason relied upon by the respondent in substituting the appellant with the 2nd respondent is the word ‘error’ without more. Clearly in my view the cases are similar and the same principle applies. In the arguments of respondents counsel, it was submitted that the fact that there was an indictment against the appellant constituted a reason for INEC to disqualify the appellant. My reaction is that the submission is untenable because there was no indictment known to law against the appellant. No court of law pronounced the appellant guilty of any criminal offence justifying his exclusion from the election. Indeed, he was never charged before any court. It is my finding that the appellant was not substituted in accordance with the law and therefore remained the 3rd respondent’s nominated candidate for the Rivers State Governorship election held on 14/4/01. The submission of the respondents that section 308 enures to the benefit of 2nd respondent is untenable. The wrong upon which the appellant premised his claim had been in existence before the election. The court below correctly decided that the section 308 did not avail the 2nd respondent. I am unable to accept that 2nd respondent enjoys any immunity in this matter. The claim of the plaintiff/appellant at pages 68-70 of the record are declaratory and injunctive. He brought the claims so that he would not be substituted. It is my view that the candidate for P.D.P. at the election was the appellant. His name was unlawfully removed. In the eyes of the law, he remained the candidate and this court must treat him as such. My view is that it was the appellant and not the 2nd respondent who must be deemed to have won the elections. The argument that the appellant must be held to his claims overlooks the fact that this court has the wide jurisdiction to give consequential orders and to grant reliefs which the circumstances and the justice of a case dictate. Wherever justice demands it, this court shall rise to do justice without regard to technicality. I ought not to make an order which does not address the grievance of a party before this court. The only way to accord recognition to his rights unlawfully trampled upon is to declare that the appellant and not the 2nd respondent must be deemed to have won the April 14 Gubematorial Election. The cross-appeals by 2nd and 3rd respondents fail. The appeal succeeds. The decision of the Court of Appeal is hereby set aside. I declare the appellant the one entitled to be in the Govenorship seat in Rivers State since he was the lawful candidate of the P.D.P. at the election. It is ordered that the 2nd respondent Celestine Omehia vacate the seat of Govenor of Rivers State immediately and that the appellant be forthwith sworn in, in his place. I will give my fuller reasons for the judgment on 18/1/2008. I make no order as to costs. PAGE| 3 D. MUSDAPHER, J.S.C: I agree. The appeal is allowed and the cross appeals are dismissed. I order that the 2nd respondent should vacate the seat of Governor of Rivers State. The appellant should be sworn in to resume his position as Governor. No order as to cost. I will give my reasons on the 18/1/2008. G. A. OGUNTADE, J.S.C: I agree with the lead judgment by Katsina Alu, JSC presiding. M. MOHAMMED, J.S.C: I entirely agree with the judgment just delivered by Katsina-Alu, JSC. I shall give reasons for judgment on 18th January, 2008 W. S. N. ONNOGHEN, J.S.C: I agreed with the reasons and conclusion of Katsina-Alu, JSC in the lead judgment just delivered. Detailed judgment will be given on 18th January, 2008. I. T. MUHAMMAD, J.S.C: Appeal allowed. The two cross appeals fail. I agree with the lead judgment including all orders made therein. I shall give full reasons on the 18th of January, 2008. P. O. ADEREMI, J.S.C: On return, the judgment of the court was read by Justice Katsina-Alu, the Presiding Justice allowing the appeal and dismissing the cross-appeals. The second respondent was ordered to vacate the Governorship seat of Rivers State immediately. Full reasons to be given on the 18th January. 2008. I agree with the judgment read. ?
I.O. Fagbemi, SAN (with him. Chief Awa Kalu, SAN; N.O.O. Oke, SAN; Steve Dappa Ado; O. O. Olorundare; H. O. Afolabi; K O. Fagbemi; S. A. Oke; S. O. Adewoye; A. O. Popoola; B. A. Oyun and Wumi Oladujoye) For Appellant Chief Amaechi Nwaiwu, SAN (with him, O. Uba) – J. B. Daudu, SAN (with him, E. C. Ukala, SAN; Joe Agi, SAN; O. Wali, Esq.; C. Ihua-Maduenyi, Esq.; K U. Obayi, Esq. and KAkujom, Esq.) – J. K Gadzama, SAN (with him, R. O. Yusuf, Esq.; O. U. Ozumba, Esq.; E. J. Gamaliel, Esq. and H. Odangla [Miss]) For Respondent ?